…scanned from my archive. 1969 - Fifty years ago I went to Woodstock

The photo above was taken in 1969 when I was 15.

The photo above was taken in 1969 when I was 15.

I arrived at the Woodstock Festival three days before it was scheduled to start. My friend Clifford and I actually had tickets for the festival, we were 14 and 15 years old respectively and ready for anything. Cliff’s mom was going to be driving to her country home near Bethel and she offered to drive us up, but the deal was we had to go up a few days early if we wanted the ride.

When we arrived, we found the few people already there doing the work of building and putting together the festival grounds. We somehow migrated to the area the Hog Farm had set up, they had a free kitchen that fed us and in return we helped build some concession stands and other structures around the area. They also gave us free hash breaks, which made the work a bit more pleasant.

Once the music started there were two options: cram yourself into the throngs of people sitting on the hill around the stage, or walk around and take in the scenery. I spent a lot of my time doing the latter. People would offer up a variety of drugs as I walked around, both the smoking kind and the pill kind. Sometimes they would just hand you a bottle, jug or goatskin canteen (a bota) filled presumably with wine, but often with some mescaline or other hallucinogen diluted in. Taking a sip was always an adventure, which I sometimes indulged but often didn’t. I suppose I would size up the offerer before making my decision.

The music was always there, whether you were looking directly at the stage or off somewhere in the rambles or over a hill or in one of the few unfortunate Porta-Pottys. I had seen many of the bands perform before, I was a regular at the Filmore East, usually as the result of my asking for free tickets from the parade of concert attendees filing into the theatre. But The Who, The Band, The Dead, were always a must see if I could. I had seen Hendrix a number of times, always magical, but I was long asleep by the time he played at sunrise.

I remember the one band everyone was talking about and anxiously awaiting was Crosby, Stills and Nash, it was to my knowledge one of, if not the first time they were playing together in front of a large crowd, and we were all looking forward to it. They were great, and it was to be the only time I would ever hear them perform.

The last night I ran into a girl I had met earlier in the summer on a bike trip to Nova Scotia. We gathered around some others who had found a dry spot on top of about 1000 Screw Magazines someone had given out. We all sat around a campfire on our Screw Magazine blankets talking about the last few days. Someone had also given out inflatable orange pup tents, which we blew up and then squeezed into for the night.

To this day I have no idea how I got back home to New York City. I remember walking a bit and then perhaps a bus, really not sure. Really doesn’t matter.

My memories of the whole event was that of a strange tableau of people and freaks, as we called ourselves then, having fun, being outrageous and loving and laughing with each other, all to the most amazing soundtrack every presented. I wish I remembered more of it, but as they say, if you say you remember Woodstock, you probably weren’t there.